The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 34
February 1 2004  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 The fourth month of Winter
The old old Icelandic calendar had 12 months - as we have today - but each month had 30 days. In the summer, between 18th to 24th July, four days called aukanætur "additional nights", were added to the year to make it 364 days or exactly 52 weeks.
To make it all cronologically correct it was necessary to make a correction every fifth or sixth year by adding a week, called sumarauki, to the aukanætur, so the leap year became 53 weeks.
The fourth month of winter, according to the old Icelandic Calendar, is Þorri (Thorri). Before 1700 the month began on Friday between January 9 to 15. Nowadays on Friday between January 19 and 25. The beginning of Thorri marks the half-way point of winter.
Advertisement for a Þorrablót in the restaurant Naust, 1959. The text, drawn from a humorous folktale, reads "I wish to God I had gone to bed, fallen asleep, woken up, and started eating again.
The origin of the name is unclear. It has been known from the 12th century and could be derived from the name of Thor, the ancient god (Newsletter #33), but it can also be related to the Icelandic word "þverra", meaning "come to an end". I.e. the winter starts to leave. Þorri Feast or Þorri Sacrifice, we call it Þorrablót in Icelandic, occurring only vaguely in saga litterature, is probable some kind of midwinter celebration that was held in pagan times and was reawakened as an occasion for feasting and poetry in the latter half of the 19th century. A secret society called Kvöldfélagið (the Evening Society) held its first Þorrablót in 1867.
During these years, when the movement for independence from Denmark was gaining strength in Iceland, a rose-tinted view of the ancient days of freedom led to a romantic tendency to revive pagan rites, such as the Þorrablót.
Icelanders did not enjoy full religious freedom until 1874, when they received their constitution. Anything that smacked of paganism and unorthodoxy had been much frowned upon during the puritan 17th and 18th centuries, and could actually be a criminal offence. But as soon as these restrictions were lifted in 1874, the first public Þorrablót was held in Akureyri, North Iceland. The custom gradually spread to other communities.
The custom of the Þorrablót was also carried to the Icelandic-Canadian community in Winnipeg, which began to hold such events in the early years of the 20th century.
In a spectacular stroke of marketing inspiration, in the month of Þorri, 1958, the manager of Reykjavík restaurant Naust introduced Þorri feasts, open to all. Traditional Icelandic food, such as svið (pickled lamb's heads), hangikjöt (smoked lamb), hrútseistu (pickled ram's testicles), hákarl (cured shark), flatbrauð (cakes of rye bread cooked on a hot griddle), and sweetened black rye bread were served, together with plenty of butter, in a wooden trug, a replica of one in the National Museum of Iceland. A penknife was supplied with which to eat the goodies. To gargle the throat in between, the Icelandic firewater, a schnapps called Brennivín - commonly called Svarti dauði or The Black Death mainly because of the bottle's black label - is a necessity.

Ref.(mainly, as so often before) Árni Björnsson: "High Days and Holidays in Iceland"

 Can you help?
The following email reached me few days ago, sent by a well known librarian here in Reykjavík, asking me to forward it to you.

My name is Hólmfríður Tómasdóttir; I am a librarian at the National and University library of Iceland.
I would be very grateful if you could help me.
My intention is to make a database
that include information about the Icelanders that immigrated to America and Canada "The New World" the last decades of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th. What were they doing and thinking in their new country?
Material of interest is letters, both from Iceland and between people that have settled in different places in "The West", diaries, memoirs, poems and everything unpublished material. I know that someone have letters from the Icelanders that took part in the First World War written to their family, this letters are also of interest. I think that most of you want to keep the originals so copies are equally good.
Please contact my by e-mail or
You can also send copies by mail.
My best regards,
Hólmfríður Tómasdóttir
Spóahólar 8
111 Reykjavík

 Icelandic Place names in N-America
In Newsletter #13 I asked for your help in gathering Icelandic place names known in North America. I certainly got a few, but I must admit that I was hoping for more. Maybe there ain't so many. Because of my trip to some few Icelandic settlements in N-America next summer I have made some "map-studies" and Web browsing, and incidentally found the following "suspicious" names:
Magnus Ave in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Einarson Ave in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Sveinson Street in Selkirk, Manitoba.
Helgason Ave in Langruth, Manitoba.
Gudmundson Park Seattle, Washington, US.
On a map of a town called Coquitlam, B.C., Canada, I found the name Gislason Ave.
Does anyone have an explanation on these names? They look Icelandic but are they?

 Search the Newsletters
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 Please observe
Every now and then people have to change their email address. The reasons can be many. Not long ago I dropped mine, mainly because of the ever increasing junk mail, and got myself the one I'm using now. I may change that one too sooner than later.
Anyway, if/when you change your email address and want to stay on my Mailing list, please don't ask me to make the necessary arrangement regarding the list. You both spare me the time and it's much easier for you to go to my Emigration page or my Subscription page, unsubscribe your old email address and subscribe again with your new one.

Well, this may be my last Newsletter for some weeks, hopefully not more than three or four at the most. We - my wife and I - longing for sun, sand and surf, decided to fly south to the Gran Canary February 14 to charge the solar cells. When I'm back, I will either be too lazy to keep on with the Newsletters or I will be full of vigour!

Settler of the Week

Jóhannes Bjarnason
and Lilja Daníelsdottir

Jóhannes Bjarnason, born 1837 of Stóradal, Saurbaejarhreppi, Eyjafjord, Iceland, and his wife Lilja Guðrún Daníelsdóttir, born 1839, of Skaldstodum, Eyja- fjord, Iceland, emigrated with their children: Guðrún Rósa (1861), Halldóra (1864), Þórunn (1868) and Pálmi (1882), from Iceland in 1883 on board the Craikforth, headed for "Ame- rica". Included in their party were Jóhannes Bjarnason, age 15 and Bjarni Bjarnason, age 24.
Father of Johannes was Bjarni Jóhannesson (1815-1883) of Kambfelli, and his mother was Halldóra Randversdóttir (1803-1853).
Lilja's parents were Daníel Pálsson (1798-1863) and Guðrún Þorsteinsdóttir (1794-1862).
The family settled in New Iceland, Thingvalla and Foam Lake, Manitoba.
Guðrún Rósa (1861) married Jón Sigfússon Thorlacíus, of Leslie, their children were Bjarni Jónsson Thorlacíus (1891-1973) married to Jóna Laxdal, and Sigfús Jónsson Thorlacíus (1898-??), married to Lenora Halldórsdóttir Gíslason.
Halldóra (1864) married Kristján Helgason (1861-1920), of Foam Lake. Their children were Oscar Pálmi (1889-??), Helgi Jóhannes (1891-1974), Guðrún Kristjana (1895-??), Kristján Norman (1899-??) and Þórunn Halldóra (1905), Lilja Guðbjörg (??), Þóra Aðalbjörg (??), Jónína Rósa (??).
Þórunn (1868) married Tómas Paulson (1859-1933) of Foam Lake. Their children were, Rósa Guðný, born 1887, Guðný, born 1889, Guðrún Rósa, born 1891, and Jóhannes (Joe) Thordur, born 1888. Jóhannes Paulson married Clara Hogan in 1909, but died in 1910. Clara's parents were Lars Hogan from Norway, farmer in N-Dakota and later in Saskatchewan, and his wife Sigrún Björnsdóttir. She was daughter to Björn Pétursson, settler of the week in #9.

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